NEW YORK - A few Betty White turn-ons:
She likes a cocktail before dinner and a weekly poker night. She has a taste for french fries and hot dogs, and a jones for crossword puzzles. And, in service to her passion as a writer, reams of lined notebook paper really get her going.
Indeed, White has written a new book, If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) (Putnam, $25.95). It's a chipper, hop-scotching meditation on her life, loves, and career - with lots of photos - that reads like a chat with the beloved star.
You wouldn't ask, but . . . .
Betty White loves her fans and loves performing, although, after six decades in showbiz, she still gets stage fright.
She doesn't care for red-carpet events, and, despite having had a blast doing summer stock, she insists she's nixed Broadway - three times.
"If you get into a Broadway show and it doesn't work, you're a failure," she writes. "And if it does work, you may be stuck for who knows how long. It just doesn't sound great to me!"
She loves - note the present tense - her late husband, quiz-show host Allen Ludden, who died from cancer in 1981.
And as everybody knows, she loves animals. Always has.
"During the Depression," she writes, "my dad made radios to sell to make extra money. Nobody had any money to buy the radios, so he would trade them for dogs. He built kennels in the backyard, and he cared for the dogs."
It was certainly no get-rich-quick scheme, but those pooches - numbering at times as many as 15 - made White's happy childhood even happier.
Are there any critters she doesn't like?
"No," White quickly answers during a recent interview. "Anything with a leg on each corner."
Then what about snakes?
"Ohhh, I love snakes!"
On this whirlwind publicity tour for her book, White is warm, witty, and a bit apologetic for all the attention she's commanded of late. For example, her current TV Land sitcom, Hot in Cleveland, which begins its third season next month; her Saturday Night Live hosting gig a year ago, which brought her raves and a seventh Emmy; a hidden-camera show in the works for NBC that will turn senior citizens into pranksters punking young folks.
"I'm going to be 90 in January - I shouldn't be working," she mock-protests with a twinkle in her eye. "I should go somewhere and let people have a rest. But I can't help it. I just enjoy it!"
Fine. But how does she get so much done?
"Not very well, to tell you the truth," says White, citing the dining-room table in her L.A. home stacked with scripts, mail, and other pending business she never whittles down. But she doesn't need much sleep, just four hours a night, she points out.
"It gives me that many more hours to do whatever I don't get done."
As everyone knows, White made her mark in television by appearing on two classic sitcoms - The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s, where she played randy TV homemaker Sue Ann Nivens, and, premiering in 1985, The Golden Girls, where she was a sweet, if chronically befuddled, Miami widow.
But White has been on the tube since TV's infancy in the late 1940s. And it was then, she says, that she was advised to start lying about her age.
"We are so age-conscious in this country," she chuckles. "It's silly, but that's the way we are. So I was told, 'Knock four years off right now. You'll be blessing yourself down the road.'
"I was born in 1922. So I thought, 'I must always remember that I was born in 1926.' But then I would have to do the math. Finally, I decided to heck with it."
By now, at 89, White has become a role model for how to grow old joyously. And more than that: for how to keep growing.
"Don't try to be young," she suggests. "Just open your mind. Stay interested in stuff. There are so many things I won't live long enough to find out about, but I'm still curious about them. You know people who are already saying, 'I'm going to be 30 - oh, what am I going to do?' Well, use that decade! Use them all!"
And, along the way, make friends with the people you meet. White does. Like her three Hot in Cleveland costars - Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick, and Valerie Bertinelli - on whom she lavishes praise.
When asked if she has ever had a coworker with whom she couldn't get along, she replies, "I made it my business to get along with them.
"Sometimes they didn't get along with me," she acknowledges, mentioning her Golden Girls costar, the late Bea Arthur. "I don't know what I ever did to Bea. She just didn't like me. And I loved her and admired her work. But I made it my business to stay out of her way.